Summary: A rich young man approaches Jesus and asks Him what more must he do to achieve everlasting life. He has kept all the commandments that Jesus mentioned but felt that he needed to do something more. Jesus tells him to sell all he has and follow Him.
In our Gospel reading this morning we find a rich young man talking to Jesus about a very important matter. This young man is deeply concerned about eternity and wants to know what he must do achieve everlasting life. But when Jesus offers him with some very good advice, the man isn’t ready to make that investment.
Jesus wants the rich, young man to take a good look at his present life, at his priorities, and start thinking about changing some of them in order fulfill his desire for everlasting life. Part of what Jesus expects from him is sacrifice.
It is misleading for this young man and us to think that salvation comes without a price. Remember the struggles the disciples went through and the price they paid for following Jesus. They gave up a lot for their salvation. Some of the disciple abandoned their homes and families, some their businesses to follow Jesus. Didn’t Peter say that “… we have left everything and followed you. What are we to have then?” (Matthew 19:27 TNJB)
Jesus knew exactly what was important to this rich young man. This young man’s biggest obstacle was that he valued his wealth more than God. So Jesus is testing him to see how serious he is about following Him. In order for him to change the course of his life, Jesus tells this young man to sell all he has and follow Him.
Having said that, don’t you find it odd that the commandment Jesus gives the rich man does not include the words, "You shall honor no other God but me.” Instead, Jesus tells the rich man to sell all he has and give his money to the poor. Why do you suppose Jesus left out that first and most important commandment? Well, Jesus actually does allude to that commandment but in a roundabout way. By selling all his possessions and giving it to the poor, Jesus was in fact saying. “Get rid of your false god and accept the true God.” The rich man needed to let go of his god of wealth so that he could allow the one true God to come into his life. But in order to change his lifestyle, the process had to begin in his mind first. The Greeks call this metanoia. In English, repentance.
Towards the end of the Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for the rich man to enter Heaven. Jesus knew that it is almost impossible for a rich man to give up his wealth even for life everlasting. Jesus said it like this, "Where your treasure is there will your heart be also." If our treasure is in this world where moths consume and rust corrodes, our life will pass away just like our treasure. In order to achieve Eternal life we must seek the "things that do not pass away, that moth and rust cannot consume or thieves break in and steal," That is our number one priority.
Mrs. Jones was asking the local lawyer about the death of the town’s richest man. “You knew him well,” she remarked, “how much wealth did he leave?”
With a tip of his hat the lawyer replied, “All of it madam, all of it!” That’s an important thing to remember when we allow wealth to become our master.
So, once we put our priorities in order and decide to live by them, then and only then will our lives change. That is how Jesus was dealing with the young man. After He advises the rich man to get rid of his wealth, his god, then Jesus beckons the rich man to follow Him. Had the young man followed Jesus advice and began worshiping the true God, eternal life would have been his. But, he bows his head and walks away saddened. But, he still has his money to cheer him up. So, what is it about money that can lead us to lose our salvation? Is money really that evil?
You see, there are two basic attitudes about wealth in the Bible. In the Old Testament wealth is considered a blessing from God. God chose Abram and promised to bless him and make his name great (Genesis 12:1-3). Solomon's wealth was seen as a sign of God's favor (1 Kings 3:13;). Does this mean that God hates poverty? No! Does he begrudge us having money? No!
When Jesus talks about money in the New Testament, it is done mainly with stories or parables, which show the dangers of wealth. i.e. the parable of the seed and the sower. (Luke 8:14); The destructive nature of wealth in the story of the rich farmer (Luke 12:16-21); But in our world wealth and success are a measure one’s worth.